Challenger Storm: The Isle Of Blood by Don Gates. Book review

Challenger StormCHALLENGER STORM: THE ISLE OF BLOOD by Don Gates

Cornerstone, p/b, $14.99/ Airship 27, pdf, $3.00, indyplanet.com

Reviewed by David Brzeski

This one was never actually on my to-be-reviewed heap. I received it as a Christmas present and since I’ve read it, I figured I may as well review it anyway. I make no secret of the fact that I’m a sucker for pulp hero style fiction; hence it made for an obvious choice as the perfect gift for me. The friend who picked it out for me and I were both pretty confident that I’d enjoy it. I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed.

The book is set between the wars and Clifton “Challenger” Storm is a wealthy altruist. He doesn’t start out that way. At first, he’s a spoiled rich brat who cares for no one other than himself. When first his parents are killed and shortly after that he’s the only survivor of a senseless tragedy, he undergoes a serious attitude shift.

He does the classic hero thing, educates and trains himself, then sets up an organisation dedicated to bring help and justice to those in need. Yes, it’s a bit of a cliché, but this is pulp fiction, not highbrow literature. It’s very good pulp fiction as it happens. An aviation tycoon asks for Storm’s help in rescuing his daughter, who is being held for ransom in the tiny island nation of ‘La Isla de Sangre’ (the Island of Blood). His team are plunged into a dangerous battle with terrorist militias and corrupt policemen. Eventually they discover that their client hasn’t been totally honest with them and the astonishing secret of “The Goddess of Death” is revealed.

Storm’s team are nicely delineated. The banter between Skids and Brock reminded me somewhat of Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four, albeit without the super powers. The author borrows an idea from ‘Mission Impossible’, in that Storm hand-picks the best team for each mission from a larger group.

I have to say that I wasn’t surprised quite as often as the characters by the various twists in the plot. For instance, the trap the heroes walk into early on in the book was pretty well telegraphed. That aside, It’s a real page-turner in the classic pulp tradition and I finished the whole book in a single sitting. I will certainly pick up the next adventure of “Challenger” Storm.